In the fifth episode of The Pop Culture Lens podcast, Christopher Olson and I discuss one of my all time favorite pop culture texts: Planet of the Apes. I fell in love with this movie, this franchise — as dorky as it got in the 1970s — because of how many layers of meaning I saw being handled in this — on the surface — simple story about a man lost in time and confronted with a society of highly intelligent apes. In this episode of the podcast, we discuss everything I saw in the film, and more, demonstrating how the film works as an allegory, a polysemous text, and a classic.
We begin our discussion with a consideration of how science fiction films, at their best, can represent so many of the social and cultural struggles of our civilization. With our focus on the first movie, we discuss how it handles issues of feminism, racism, war, animal rights, and religion. In exploring these issues in the first film, we naturally discuss how these themes reoccur throughout the franchise, including in today’s most recent films, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014).
Overall, we conclude that each film’s structure as an allegory allows for the films to comment on the issues of their time, and to remain relevant for contemporary audiences still struggling with those same issues. And while we only scrapped the surface of our analysis of these films, hopefully we indicate a lot of potential directions for further criticism and scholarship that considers these films as more than just movies about apes winning out over humans.